EU-US: Satellite states: Commission prepares for negotiations with the US on EU's defence and internal security satellite system

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The EU is currently developing a "public regulated service" (PRS) for its Galileo global positioning satellite system that will be used by EU institutions and Member States for "sensitive applications that require a high level of continuity" and that may be "very sensitive from a political and strategic viewpoint", such as those used by the military and internal security forces. The European Commission is currently preparing for negotiations with the US on providing access to this "public regulated service" (PRS), through which highly sensitive information will be transmitted, despite concerns over the US National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs and recent calls from some senior EU figures for European "autonomous security capabilities".

What is Galileo?

The Galileo programme is, in the words of the Commission:

"Europe's initiative for a state-of-the-art global satellite navigation system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. The fully deployed system will consist of 30 satellites and the associated ground infrastructure." [1]

It is designed to be compatible with the USA's Global Position System (GPS) satellites as well as Russia's GLONASS. Unlike these two systems it will be under civil rather than military control, although "nothing prevents the Member States to use it for military purposes". [2]

The final decision to set up the PRS was made in 2010, with a Commission press release claiming that it would assist in:

"[B]etter management of critical transport and emergency services, better law enforcement (police), improved internal security (border control) and safer peace missions. These are the core objectives… PRS users can receive vital, often life-saving, information even when other infrastructures become unavailable."

Antonio Tajani, Commission vice-president for Industry and Entrepreneurship, was quoted as saying that:

"The safety and security of each and every European citizen lives at the heart of this proposal… there is an urgent need to ensure that key services, such as our police forces and rescue and emergency services, continue to function in moments of crisis, terrorist threat or disaster." [3]

Critical infrastructure and internal security

Member States themselves will decide the purposes for which they will use the PRS. In 2008 the Commission sent a questionnaire to Member States in order to assess the possibilities. 18 responded, all of whom said that they could use the system for "critical transport" and "emergency services"; 17 said that they could use it for "custom" (presumably customs); 16 said they could use it for defence, internal security and law enforcement transmissions; 15 for "critical energy" and "critical telecom"; 14 for "strategic economic and commercial activities" and 13 for "miscellaneous - others".

The questionnaire also asked what Member States expected would be the indicated "volume of PRS receivers" - hardware which will be manufactured in the Member States under strict licencing rules. Defence receivers dwarfed all others with an expected volume of over 60,000. Next was critical transport with over 30,000, then internal security with over 20,000 and law enforcement with just fewer than 10,000. [4]

Those Member States that decide to use the PRS will have to establish a national management authority and to ensure that their national security rules offer protection for classified information "at least equivalent" to that set out in EU security and secrecy rules. [5] They will also have to follow strict rules on authorising the manufacture and export outside of the EU of infrastructure, such as receivers, to be used with the service.

The PRS is one of several services under development for Galileo. The others deal with applications for individual handsets and mobile phones; road transport; aviation; maritime transport; precision agriculture and environment protection; and civil protection and surveillance.

Satellite secrets

Earlier this year Statewatch asked for access to a document produced by the European External Action Service entitled "State of play of the EU-US discussion on Galileo PRS". The Council refused access, but did explain that:

"This document refers to the negotiating mandate that the Commission is preparing to be presented to Member States. It contains two annexes related to EU-US discussions on Galileo PRS detailing options and considerations on this sensitive issue. Disclosure of this information would impede the proper conduct of the negotiations and harm relations between the EU and US."

This reply came on 1 July, a month after information released by whistleblower Edward Snowden was first published in the press. Subsequently - after a slow start [6] - the EU demanded from the US "swift and concrete answers" to questions on the NSA surveillance programs. [7] Justice commissioner and Commission vice-president Reding also said that the EU-US Safe Harbor data-sharing agreement would be subject to a review in light of the revelations. [8]

Yet none of these concerns - now institutionalised into an EU-US working group which has so far led to the release of one official statement [9] and a number of secret documents, one of which has been released in heavily-censored form [10] - appear to have significantly affected the Commission's preparations for negotiations on US use of Galileo's public regulated service, which a Commission spokesperson told Statewatch will be "thoroughly discussed with Member States in the Council in autumn".

"Caution must be exercised in discussions with all third countries"

EU legislation dealing with access to the PRS says that:

"Agreements with third countries or international organisations should be negotiated taking full account of the importance of ensuring respect for democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of expression and information, human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law." [11]

If an agreement is reached on access for the US to the PRS, the US could be given permission not just to import and use satellite receivers made in the EU, but also to manufacture some of the technology itself. The EU legislation on access to the PRS states that agreements with "third countries or international organisations" may include "the manufacturing, under specific conditions, of PRS receivers, to the exclusion of security modules". [12]

Statewatch asked the Commission what steps the Commission would be taking to ensure that any sensitive or personal data transmitted via the PRS would not be subject to US surveillance and data-gathering practices. The Commission was vague:

"This is a subject that the European Union takes very seriously. The European Commission has issued a statement on these allegations. Caution must be exercised in discussions with all third countries. Within the EU we have regulations designed to uphold security rules on the protection of classified information. The EU and US entered into an agreement on the security of classified information in 2007. This deals with the provision and exchange of classified information in 2007. Should an agreement on PRS be concluded between the EU and the US, it will contain provisions on information exchanged through the agreement."

The Commission would not say for precisely which purposes the US wished to obtain access to the PRS - for example, use by military forces - instead stating that:

"We believe it is a testament to the quality of service, accuracy and precision that Galileo is estimated to achieve that the US has expressed its interest in Galileo PRS as a complement to the services offered by the GPS."

It is unclear through which channels exactly the US expressed its interest in the PRS, although the US and the EU signed an agreement in 2004 "on the promotion, provision and use of Galileo and GPS satellite-based navigation systems and related applications". [13] The Commission's spokesperson, when asked whether any other non-EU states or international organisations were participating in negotiations on PRS access, said that "any participation of a non-EU country or an international organisation will require a thorough reflection with our Member States."

"Spy drones, surveillance satellites and aircraft"

In July this year UK newspaper The Telegraph reported that the EU is "planning to own and operate spy drones, surveillance satellites and aircraft as part of a new intelligence and security agency under the control of Baroness Ashton," the EU's High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and head of the EEAS.

An unnamed EU official is quoted in the article as saying that "the Edward Snowden scandal shows us that Europe needs its own autonomous security capabilities, this proposal is one step further towards European defence integration." [14]

The article claims that "spy drones and secure command systems" would be linked to the EU's Copernicus satellite system, formerly known as the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program, which is due to provide services in six "thematic areas": land, marine, atmosphere, climate change, emergency management and security. [15]

The Galileo system is not mentioned, although the Commission argues that the PRS "can have important impacts on Europe's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and on the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP)." [16] The EU's plans to give the US access to its "highly sensitive" public regulated service may raise eyebrows amongst those keen on seeing the EU develop its own distinct "strategic" capabilities, as well as those who have been calling for the EU to take a firm stance against the mass surveillance programmes conducted by US security agencies.

[1] European Commission, Galileo - What do we want to achieve?
[2] European Commission, Galileo: Public Regulated Services
[3] European Commission, Galileo: Secure satellite navigation for emergency and security services, 8 October 2010
[4] European Commission, Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the detailed rules for access to the public regulated service offered by the global navigation satellite system established under the Galileo programme, COM(2010) 550 final, 8 October 2010
Commission Decision 2001/844/EC, ECSC, Euratom of 29 November 2001 amending its internal Rules of Procedure and
Council Decision 2011/292/EU of 31 March 2011 on the security rules for protecting EU classified information
[6] Kassandra, NSA spying revelations leave Europe silent, New Europe, 7 June 2013
[7] Alan Travis, Spencer Ackerman and Paul Lewis, Europe warns US: you must respect the privacy of our citizens, The Guardian, 11 June 2013; Letter from Vivane Reding to US Attorney General, 10 June 2013
[8] Nikolaj Nielsen, EU questions decade-old US data agreement, EUobserver, 22 July 2013
[9] Presidency statement on outcome of discussions on EU-US working group, 19 July 2013
[10] NOTE from Presidency to: JHA Counsellors, EU-US Working Group on Data Protection, 12183/13 EXT 1, 11 July 2013
[11] Decision No 1104/2011/EU of the European Parliament and of the council of 25 October 2011 on the rules for access to the public regulated service proivded by the global navigation satellite system established under the Galileo programme
[12] Ibid., Article 3(5)(b)
[13] Agreement between the USA and the EU on the promotion, provision and use of Galileo and GPS satellite-based navigation systems and related appliations
[14] Bruno Waterfield,
EU planning to 'own and operate' spy drones and an air force, The Telegraph, 26 July 2013
[15] Copernicus in brief
[16] European Commission, Galileo: Public Regulated Services

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